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The State of the Union is...

The Washington Times reports that "Bush's record of getting his State of the Union proposals enacted, after successes in his early years in office, has dropped off substantially.  Of the 12 initiatives that he proposed or called on Congress to pass in 2006, the White House can claim complete success on just three: renewing the Patriot Act, expanding health savings accounts and expanding electronic medical records.  That followed unfulfilled calls in 2005 to reform Social Security and the tax code and to pass a guest-worker program for illegal aliens and future immigrants." 

Also in his USA Today interview, Bush "vowed that the Iraq war would not deter him from engaging the Democratic-controlled Congress on a sweeping domestic agenda, including helping states tailor their own plans for health insurance."  He's also proposing that "health insurance benefits from employers... be considered taxable income.  That means people with generous health coverage would pay taxes on the amount that exceeds the tax deduction."  Bush also "said he will submit a budget to be balanced by 2012 without raising taxes, but did not say whether it would depend on major cuts to existing programs, future economic growth or some combination of both." 

The Wall Street Journal tackles Bush's health care plan, noting the new NBC/Journal poll data showing health care costs to be Americans' top economic concern, but also that "the odds of major legislation in the current Congress appear long, and health care is likely to be a point of contention in" the 2008 race.  Under Bush's plan, "[w]ith the average premium for an employer-provided family policy at $11,500, 80% of employees with health benefits would see their overall tax go down...  But many executives and professionals, as well as some rank-and-file union workers, could see their taxes increase."  The story also notes that Bush will "have another initiative aimed at encouraging states to create insurance pools for lower-income people." 

Bush is also expected to outline steps to tackle global warming.  The Boston Globe says this "marks a shift for the White House, which critics say has consistently tried to undermine scientific evidence of the link between air pollution and disturbing trends in the environment."  Some are wary of any pledges he might make on energy: "In all six of his previous State of the Union addresses, Bush has committed to work toward energy independence, yet the nation imported about 60 percent of its oil from abroad last year -- up from 53 percent when Bush won office in 2000."

NBC's John Yang reports that Bush has accepted an invitation from House Democrats to address their annual policy retreat at Williamsburg, VA, on February 3 -- a rare instance of a president of an opposing party appearing at such a session.  Bush will address House Republicans at their conference in Cambridge, MD this coming Friday.